FORT WAYNE – A Columbia City business is playing a part in revitalizing a Fort Wayne park with the help of a local motorcycle club.
Warrior Breed Motorcycle Club, founded about five years ago, is “a club with a mission,” president Gary Perkey said.
“Our mission is to take care of veterans,” he said.
Warrior Breed helps veterans with a variety of issues, from post-traumatic stress disorder to helping to pay for groceries and utilities when veterans fall ill.
As another way to support veterans, the club has decided to replace about 70 trees in Memorial Park. The trees were originally part of a grove to honor 125 World War I veterans in the park, which was created in 1918.
While a handful of the original 125 remain standing and about 50 were replaced in 2002, Warrior Breed approached the city about paying to replace and replant the remaining trees, Perkey said.
“There was no doubt in my mind, I had no fears whatsoever that the public and business would step up and provide the money necessary to do the trees,” Perkey said.
Not only has Warrior Breed been able to raise the funds for the trees with the support of local businesses, unions and individuals, its members also plan to establish a trust to “take care of these trees for generations to come,” Perkey said.
Warrior Breed reached out to Shade Trees Unlimited of Columbia City, which supplies all the trees for Fort Wayne’s parks department, General Manager Michael Hollis said.
After selecting the plants from Shade Trees Unlimited, the motorcycle club decided to bring the trees into Fort Wayne in style.
On Oct. 28 members of Warrior Breed, as well as other local motorcycles clubs, joined Shade Trees Unlimited, Fort Wayne’s fire and police departments and members of the 1st Battalion, 293rd Infantry Regiment of Fort Wayne to escort the trees from Columbia City to their new home at Memorial Park. Along the way, they also stopped at the Hearth of Sycamore Village so veterans there could pay their respects to what the trees represent.
“It felt so good to come through town that way and see everyone just stop what they were doing and just watch us come through because they knew what it was, they knew what we were honoring today,” Perkey said at a gathering of people at Memorial Park. “To forget them and to not do what we’re all doing to honor and support them would be a shame. But we are. We’re all stepping up and making this happen and we appreciate your support. … This was more than we could have expected to honor these trees, which represent the fallen of World War I.”
Hollis said being able to participate in the parade through town was “exciting.”
But they weren’t done yet: Shade Trees Unlimited planted trees throughout Memorial Grove. Many members of the public and motorcycle group members helped with the planting.
“I wish we had more shovels,” Hollis said with a laugh, adding he expected all the trees to be planted before the end of the day.
The trees will be formally dedicated 2 p.m. Nov. 11 at the park, Perkey said. The day before, Warrior Breed is partnering with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants to allow military personnel and their families to attend the game for free.
Perkey emphasized, however, that Warrior Breed is not done with the park yet.
“I don’t want anybody to think that because we got to the goal of the trees, this effort is not done. There is still a lot of money to raise,” he said, adding the motorcycle club wants to help with other needs at the park as well.
Those interested in donating or learning more about the project can look up Operation Mp-125 on Facebook or visit warriorbreedmc.com.